After Israel invaded Gaza last winter, protests sprang up in Europe. Firebombs and tear gas were part of the mix—though not in Sweden, thanks to a new kind of crowd control.
Actually, "crowd control" is the wrong phrase, says Ola Österling, coordinator of the Stockholm police's four-year-old "dialogue group." Rather than focus on cowing a crowd, officers look at its members. If a person acts criminally, the cops step in. They also encourage organizers to monitor their events. "We are nervous every time," says Österling. But the approach is promising. In Stockholm, Gaza protesters wanted to crowd Israel's embassy, but listened when their leaders called for restraint.
Clifford Stott helps teach this tactic to Sweden's police. A social psychologist at the University of Liverpool, he studies soccer riots (local fans are famously wild). His conclusion? If teams of officers are embedded in a crowd, they aren't seen as a threat and can quietly nab hooligans. Last season police tried his method on fans of England's national team at away games. For fun, Stott asks folks to guess the arrest tally—6, 60, 600, or 6,000? Most say 6,000. The answer: 6. —Marc Silver
Riot Tact (National Geographic)
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